Explore Japan Locals

Explore a wide variety of Japanese products born out of Japan's unique geography, diverse climates, and rich history. Find your own local gems.

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Minoh Park What comes to your mind when someone mentions Osaka? Mouth-watering Takoyaki? Or maybe deliciously seasoned kushikatsu? Indeed, being called “ Tenka no Daidokoro ” (The kitchen of the world) since the ancient times, Osaka is well known for its gourmet street food. Yet unknown to many, Osaka is also host to many wonderful natural beauties. Located in the northern part of Osaka lies Minoh Park, well known for its wonderful autumn leaves and majestic waterfall.   Just 400m from the Hakyuu Minoh station, Minoh Park is voted as one of the top 100 places to go for forest therapy. Near to the quaint historic town of Minoh, the road to the Park from the station is filled with nostalgic shop houses. There is also an onsen (hot spring) for those who wants to rejuvenate themselves after a weary travel.     Entering the park, one is immediately embraced by a twining stream surrounded by maple trees. Minoh Park is famous for being a place of fun for all four seasons. Spring for the fresh verdure, summer for escaping the heat, autumn for the awesome red leaves viewing and winter for hikes. There are many paths to choose such as the regular path to the famous waterfall or the hiking path for mountain lovers.   Despite being a path uphill, the path is well paved such that it is not too daunting for one to take. The sceneries along the way makes the walk really enjoyable. There are also many shops that sells refreshments and souvenirs, so if you are hungry or you want something to remember the trip, you can make a brief stop.   One local food to try in Minoh Park is the famous Momiji Tempura (Red-leaves Tempura).   It is usually sold in packets, and can be purchased at almost every single shop in the park. Dried Maple leaves are coated with batter and fried to perfection, finishing off with a sprinkle of black sesame. The black sesame leaves an aromatic aftertaste in your mouth, and it goes really well with the crispy batter. This delightful snack is bound to make you longing for more.     If you think that the only thing that you can do in the park is to take a walk, you are in for a surprise. The park also has an insect museum, showcasing insects native to the Minoh area. Insects lovers are bound to love this place. There is also a free ashiyu (footbath) besides the museum, so you can take a short break here if you like. Rest houses are also available along the way, so you can always recharge before continuing your journey.   Once you reached the end of the path, you will see the famous Minoh Waterfall. Majestic streams of water pour down into a clear stream. There are benches near the waterfall, so you can actually sit down and enjoy the sceneries if you are lucky enough to grab a seat. With souvenirs shop and various food stalls nearby, you can end your trip to Minoh Park with a happy note.   Visit the official Japanese site here: http://www.mino-park.jp/    
Takayama Honmachi Sanchome Shopping Street A quality shopping experience in Takayama       Overview of Takayama and the Shopping street     The Hida Takayama region is located in the North of Gifu prefecture and lies between the regions Hokuriku and Tokai. You can get to the city easily from eigher Tokyo, Osaka or Nagoya by JR express trains. From Tokyo and Osaka, take Shinkansen to Nagoya and transfer to the “Wide View Hida”, the Limited Express. The total time required is about 4h from Tokyo, 3h from Osaka and a little bit more than 2h from Nagoya. Also, there are bus services from these and also from smaller cities.   Just a few minute walk from Takayama station, and conveniently located near the Kajibashi Bridge in the city center is the Takayama Shopping Street “Honmachi Sanchome.” A multitude of shops and a variety of food can be purchased in this Shopping Street, providing a unique service for foreign tourists in Japan:     In 2016, Takayama Honcho Sanchome Shopping Street introduced a tax-exemption service.   You can just buy your favorite products from 8 member stores, all offering a unique variety of high-quality Japanese products. If you purchase over 5,000 Yen (without tax) in total at the member stores, you can conveniently get a one-time tax exemption at the end of your shopping.      Stores   A great place to start the shopping tour is Imai-Bunbogu, a stationary store located at the entry of the Sanchome-Shopping street, just next to Kajibashi bridge. Over two floors the store offers a great variety of pens, notebooks, and many other products. Especially the “Travel-book” series is very popular among foreign tourists, and Japanese pens attract with their superb quality and functions. Last but not least, the store sells many postcards with beautiful sceneries of Takayama and surrounding areas.        Next, the Kosugi Butsudan store welcomes its visitors with a fulminant fragment, wooden scent when entering the store. “Butsudan” means Buddhist altar in Japanese, but the store sells much more than Buddhist altars: Not only can you buy all different kinds of incense and related products here, but also traditional Japanese dolls or cards.      In the toy store “Aladdin” every children and adults’ dream comes true: A store full with toys and games, this store offers something for everybody. If you are an Anime-fan, why don’t you get a Ghibli-puzzle or a Gandam figure? The store also has a charming selection of post-war Japanese toys, and a guarantee for fun and adrenaline is their huge 4WD Mini Racer (Mini Yonku) racing track.    Food     Popular among foreign as well as Japanese tourists, and located just at the entrance of the Shopping Street, “Kajibashi Soba” offers local dishes. Their most popular dish is Takayama Chukasoba, a noodle-soup specialty from Takayama with an intense, round flavor. Also, make sure to try out their meat dishes such as regional Hida Beef on a rice plate. While Hida beef might not be known that well outside Japans, Japanese people rank it among the best in the country.      Another store to try delicious Hida beef is “Komori” inside the restaurant-complex “EaTown.” Especially if you go there for lunch, you can get a set meal for less than 1,000 yen with rice, salad, pickles and Hida beef (steak or sukiyaki).         Also located in EaTown is the sweets shop “Hiyoko An.” For only 400 Yen you can get a delicious Maccha together with a traditional Japanese sweet, some of which can only be found in this store. Inside EaTown you have free Wifi-access and an Information Center.     For every Sushi-fan, Sanchome Shopping Street offers a jewel ranked even among the Top 30 Sushi restaurants 2017 of famous travel site (worldwide) – Sushi Nob! For a very reasonable price (a good dinner for about 2,000 Yen p.P) you can eat unique Sushi variations that you will not forget soon, such as the Dragon-Roll with avocado, eel and shrimps. The store also offers delicious Sushi suited for vegetarian customers.       Procedure for tax-exemption   In order to get the tax exemption, you might first want to go to Nakada pharmacy located in the center of the Shopping Street. There you can get information about participating stores and a map indicating their location. When buying your products, the store will attach the receipts to an information brochure about the Shopping Street, and once you finished your shopping tour go back to Nakada pharmacy, where you will get your tack back in cash. Please make sure that you use the same passport and credit card for all purchases, and that the total value of products over 5,000 yen (without tax). Also, there is a distinction between the amounts of money spent for General goods and for Consumables, so it is recommended to read the information brochure before starting you shopping tour. The tax-free Counter operates between 9:00 and 19:00h.       How to get there     The Takayama Sanchome Shopping Street can be accessed conveniently within 10 Minutes from JR Takayama station. Exit the station at the east exit and turn left until you get to the first big crossing after about 3 minutes (Takayama Station Kita; Takayama Station Hotel is located here). There you turn right and follow the street until you reach the crossing just in front of the river and Kajibashi bridge. The shopping street is located on the left side, starting with “Kajibashi Soba” and “Imai Bunbogu.”   Useful Information     Address of the Shopping Street: 3-55 Honmachi, Takayama-city, Gifu-prefecture.    PDF-Webpage of the Shopping Street (Japanese): http://www.chusho.meti.go.jp/keiei/sapoin/monozukuri300sha/2017/12takayamahoncho.pdf   This website introduces the shops in EaTown (English version available) http://www.eatown-hidatakayama.com/   The website of Sushi Nob (Japanese): https://hitosara.com/0006071395/   Imai Bunbogu and Imai PenShop (2F) (English, further information and pictures in Japanese): http://bunchan.wp.xdomain.jp/english-page/   Kosugi Butsudan (Japanese):   http://www.kosugi-butsudan.com/index.htm   Kajibashi Soba: Not their official webpage, but with interesting information in English: https://en.japantravel.com/gifu/chuuka-soba-kajibashi-takayama/4182     Aladdin (Japanese): http://www.hidalabo.com/detail/index_164.html   Nakada pharmacy (Japanese): http://www.shiseido.co.jp/sw/navi/shopdetail.html?shopCd=404L34      
Nature in the Hustle-and-Bustle – Muroran At the southwestern part of Hokkaido lies Muroran, a name which originally means “the bottom of a little slope” in the Ainu language. Founded in 1872, Muroran is a busy port city with a population of nearly 100000. Visitors can choose to either take a bus (which takes around 2.5 hours) or use the convenient JR railway system to reach here.     Muroran – A city brimming with beauty Surrounded by beautiful oceans and lush green mountains, Muroran offers its visitors exquisite locations to unwind and enjoy the nature. From the observatory of Cape Etomo built to resemble the bow of a yacht, you can observe the volcanoes on the other side of the sea as well as Daikokujima , an island amidst the blue waters. Cape Etomo is located at the western part of the city and is reachable via the local bus.     Walking along the nature trail beginning from the observatory at Cape Etomo, you can reach the Gin-byobu , or “Silver Paper Screen” in Japanese. It is a huge cliff that appears silver in color in the evening.     The silvery look of Gin-byobu stands in contrast with Kin-byobu , or “Gold Paper Screen”, on the other side of the city. Under the morning sun, this cliff appears golden brown instead.     Located at just a stone throw’s distance away from Kin-byobu is Cape Chikyu, one of the landmarks of Muroran. The breathtaking sceneries of the city as well as those of the Pacific Ocean are absolutely stunning, and it is no wonder that this location is consistently ranked first amongst all sightseeing spots in Hokkaido.   But that’s not all. From the Muroran Port, you can also enjoy a marvelous view of the Hakucho Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in Eastern Japan with a length of 1380 meters, or about 4500 feet.   And of course, do not forget the night views of the city! Take one of the sightseeing buses (which operate between June and October), or a cruise (between April and November) to indulge yourself in the signature sceneries of the city at night.       A walk down memory’s lane As one of Hokkaido’s oldest cities, Muroran also offers a wide variety of locations for the history enthusiasts. The former Muroran railway station building, now also serving as the headquarters of the Tourism Association of Muroran, is the oldest wooden construction in all of Hokkaido. Built in the Meiji era, the building houses numerous artifacts related to the history of the station and the railway that runs through the city.       The Bokoi Meshi Bento The Bokoi Meshi is a traditional Japanese bento sold only in selected shops around Muroran, with a limited number every day. Created by the Sekine family, it is the signature Eki-ben , or “Station Bento” of Bokoi Station, yet another of Muroran’s historical locations. At Bokoi Station, you can also purchase many other kinds of souvenirs.     The Sekine family owns a café and souvenir shop at Enrum Marina, located at the Muroran Port. At the museum for seashells on the second floor, you can also look at some of their works as craftsmen specializing in shells.       For more information on sightseeing in Muroran, visit the website below: http://muro-kanko.com/            
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